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New Orleans Pelicans forward Julius Randle shoots over Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes and forward Luka Doncic in the first half of Wednesday's game in the Smoothie King Center.

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The New Orleans Pelicans are back to .500.

They evened their record at 13-13 when they routed the Dallas Mavericks 132-106 on Wednesday night in the Smoothie King Center.

It was just their third victory in their past nine games as they continue an uphill climb to try to reach their lofty preseason expectations.

“I think we started the game with a lot of energy,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We moved the ball and we got out and ran. We did everything we had to do to try and replicate everything we did early in the season.”

New Orleans, which started the season 4-0 but has been inconsistent since, made a season-high 17 3-pointers on 29 attempts and had a season-high 36 assists on 51 baskets.

“That says that the ball is moving,” Gentry said, “and it’s getting to the right people.”

One of those right people was forward Julius Randle, who made his second consecutive start in place of Nikola Mirotic, who is sidelined by illness. Randle, who had a career-high 37 points in a 129-126 loss to the Pacific Division-leading Los Angles Clippers on Monday night, had 27 points and 18 rebounds against the Mavericks.

“When he has that kind of energy,” guard Jrue Holiday said, “he’s just a bull and he’s hard to stop.”

Gentry said he may be hard to keep Randle out of the starting lineup even when Mirotic returns, which could be as soon as a game against the Southwest Division-leading Memphis Grizzlies to conclude the homestand Friday.

“That’s something we definitely have to talk about,” Gentry said.

Mirotic’s illness is the latest in a series of maladies that have sidelined Pelicans, most notably starting point guard Elfrid Payton who has played in just six games and is expected to miss another month because of surgery to repair a fractured finger.

New Orleans received a third-quarter scare when All-Star forward Anthony Davis walked gingerly to the locker room after falling to the court and clutching his left ankle. But Davis returned later in the quarter, which ended with the Pelicans holding a comfortable 97-80 lead.

Randle made 11 of 16 field goals, including 2 of 3 3-pointers.

“My mindset doesn’t really change (starting),” Randle said. “I just focus on what I can control, which is energy and effort. Any time you can share the floor with a guy like (Davis) it makes the game easier. It’s a different dynamic that teams have to adjust to.”

Davis added 27 points, E’Twaun Moore and Holiday scored 17 each, Darius Miller had 12 and Cheick Diallo 10.

Solomon Hill made just his second start of the season as Moore came off the bench to provide scoring punch among the reserves with Randle being in the starting lineup.

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“It worked out well,” Gentry said. “(Moore) gave us some ball handling and scoring off the bench and Solomon was solid. The shots he took were good shots, and he played good defense.”

Harrison Barnes scored 16, Wesley Matthews added 15, J.J. Barea had 14, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell scored 12 each and Jalen Brunson had 11 for the Mavericks (12-11), who lost for just the second time in seven games and third time in 12.

Guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed the game because of a sprained right wrist.

Star rookie Luka Doncic had just eight points on 2 of 8 shooting.

When play began Wednesday only 5½ games separated the top and the bottom of the West with the exception of last-place Phoenix, which was 13½ games behind the first-place Nuggets and Clippers.

“No one is running away with it,” Gentry said. “So what we have to do is keep battling and try to keep our head above water (because) when we get everybody healthy I think we can be pretty good. I think everybody is an injury away from struggling some.”

Before the game the Pelicans announced the signing of guard Andrew Harrison to a two-way contract. Harrison, 6-foot-6, was a second-round draft by Phoenix out of Kentucky in 2015. He entered the game briefly late in the fourth quarter.

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This article originally ran on theadvocate.com.

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